Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 21, 2010

IF WE'RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT AUDIENCE SOPHISTICATION.... There have been a few entertaining exchanges of late between "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart and Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg, but there was something the conservative media critic said last night that seemed especially noteworthy.

It started when Goldberg and other Fox News personalities started over-generalizing about what liberals think, after having complained about the way liberals over-generalize. It prompted Stewart to tell Fox News, "Go f*ck yourselves."

This wasn't well received at Fox News HQ, and led to a discussion between Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly. Goldberg conceded that Stewart had a point about over-generalizing, but proceeded to go after "The Daily Show" host anyway. Responding directly to Stewart, Goldberg said, speaking into the camera:

"You're just a safe Jay Leno, with a much smaller audience, but you get to say the F-bomb, which gives your incredibly unsophisticated audience the illusion -- the illusion -- that you're courageous and a renegade, but it's only an illusion."

Stewart's response is well worth watching -- I've included the video below -- and I was especially pleased to hear him explain, "I know that I criticize you and Fox News a lot, but only because you're truly a terrible, cynical, disingenuous news organization." Stewart also noted the contradiction underscoring the criticism of his audience -- Goldberg thinks "Daily Show" viewers are "elites" and "unsophisticated" at the same time?

But there's a related point I wanted to emphasize that Stewart didn't mention. In 2004, the National Annenberg Election Survey found that Fox News viewers were the most confused about current events, while viewers of "The Daily Show" were among the best informed news consumers in the country. Comedy Central, relying on data from Nielsen Media Research, also found that Stewart's audience not only knew more about current events, but were far better educated than Bill O'Reilly's audience.

Three years later, the Pew Research Study published a report showing that "viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have the highest knowledge of national and international affairs, while Fox News viewers rank nearly dead last."

Bernie Goldberg, if you want to talk about "incredibly unsophisticated audiences," we can talk about incredibly unsophisticated audiences.

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Steve Benen 2:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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And how would liberal groups like Annenburg and Pew determine how "informed" viewers are? By seeing how closely they hew to the standard liberal narrative, naturally.

Posted by: Al on April 21, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Early this morning when I was reviewing the blogs with which I like to start my day, I came upon the video clip of Stewart doing gospel. I was twenty minutes late to work because I couldn't get my ass off the floor after an intense laugh attack took place!

FOXNEWS should quit while it is only a medium distance behind. Anymore of these exchanges and FOXNEWS will end up in a salvage yard!

Finally, you mean to say Bill and Bernie don't know their audience is filled with dolts? Oh contrair, they know perfectly well the intellectual challenges their audiences face - why do you think they keep feeding gross generalizations and other untruthful shit nightly to their identified demographic? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 21, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Reality has a liberal bias.

I remember when smoking didn't contribute to cancer. Then the liberals ruined it.

Posted by: riffle on April 21, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Goldberg's singing telegram

Brilliant, truly brilliant.
The only thing slightly dismaying is my f-bomb substitution seems to not have caught on...

What's up with that Jon?

Posted by: koreyel on April 21, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Stewart's quote that introduces the clip is the most appropriate statement I've seen regarding the media.

Posted by: TonyB on April 21, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

It's a tradition going back to medieval times - the court Fool is the only one who can speak the truth. Because he's just a fool, the Fool can get away with saying the things no one else is allowed to say.

Bernie Goldberg picked the wrong fight. Kind of like La Palin deciding to throw down with Letterman; the "serious" person gets diminished first by engaging the clown, then even more by getting owned by the clown.

Posted by: jimBOB on April 21, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

i thought the self-deprecating admission he'd gone very easy on some key Republicans was a nice touch - in response to Bernie's claim that Stewart had "given a lap dance" to and "his tongue down Frank Rich's throat", Jon noted that since then he'd been "in the Champagne Room" with Bill Kristol 5 times and he and McCain had fucked like bunnies.

On the latter, it sounds like someone is having morning-after regrets.

Posted by: zeitgeist on April 21, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bernie Goldberg? You mean to tell me that the best shot the shrill little man-o'cub at FoxNoise can fire at Stewart is a few-too-many-times-peed-on, seam-popped, one-eyed teddy bear that looks, thinks, talks, walks, and acts like a Muppet on Quaaludes named Bernie Goldberg?

Note to FoxNoise: Find a better STD-wannabe to keep that 8PM weekdays chair warm, willya?

Posted by: S. Waybright on April 21, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Go Stew-Beef.... FoxNews has gone after the wrong guy/ show and audience. Sad sad sad...

Posted by: wom55 on April 21, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Love the energy here! I'm a kick-butt pro Strat player and digital composer, and I just released my first ambent fusion jazz CD: Bipolar Shaman. Come listen and buy!

Posted by: jamesbipolar on April 21, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

It's no surprise that Stewart/Colbert's audience is better informed on politics and current affairs. If they were not, they would fail to find the humor and tune out. OTOH, FOXNews is tailored to an audience that has a world view based on a mythology about liberals that has been cultivated for years on AM radio and the like.

The Comedy Central lineup toys with knowlege and information. The Fox lineup carefully shields it's audience from it.

Posted by: JoeW on April 21, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Steve - you're being way too hard on Bernie Goldberg. He only says unbelievably stupid things because he's an incredible moron.

Posted by: DH Walker on April 21, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK


Go F*&k youself.

Posted by: Stevio on April 21, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Oh never mind. No one will ever buy my Bipolar Shaman jazz fusion. I'm going to give up music forever.

Posted by: jamesbipolar on April 21, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

They should know better than to take on Stewart. He's just the best.
Indeed, reality has a liberal bias, and Jon Stewart has a first class brain. Unlike the angry men at the Rethug propaganda outlet, better known as Fox Faux News.

Posted by: rrk1 on April 21, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone here see "howobamagotelected.com"? Yeah, I'd say argument over. Oh, and I won't be returning here. Argue amongst yourselves!

Posted by: JayoftheDead on April 21, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Stewart was hilarious!

And I thought Goldberg came off as immature, angry, defensive, and nasty. what's up with TV personalities insulting TV audiences, anyway? The tone he took reminded me of the snotty tone Fox's spokesperson took with LL Cool Jay. Is Fox News entirely staffed by 14 year old girls?

The "tongue down Frank Rich's throat" comment was surprising, heard from a supposed newsman. I thought it was peculiar he would choose to get into that kind of discourse - he doesn't use that kind of discourse for a living, so when going up against someone who does (a comedian) it's like he's playing in the wrong league. Which was obvious, since his coment sounded like a slur on Rich, while Stewart's rejoinder about Kristol and McCain just sounded funny.

Never pick a fight against a comedian. Doesn't Goldberg get it?

Posted by: g on April 21, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the best line was Stewart noting how courageous Bernie was in going on O'Reilly to complain about liberal elites.

"Dese guys" (Fox News) are such pussies. Be a man like Stewart and Obama who went on O'Reilly's show. I'd like to see them go on Olberman..... now that should be a pay per view!

Posted by: mike Reilly on April 21, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

@ DH Walker: Steve - you're being way too hard on Bernie Goldberg. He only says unbelievably stupid things because he's [strike]an incredible moron[/strike] paid to.


Posted by: Gregory on April 21, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

but you get to say the F-bomb, which gives your incredibly unsophisticated audience the illusion -- the illusion -- that you're courageous and a renegade

Note: When he says this he's talking to Bill O'Reilly, not about Bill O'Reilly

Posted by: mcc on April 21, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Is Fox News entirely staffed by 14 year old girls?

No, eleven year old girls;>

Posted by: martin on April 21, 2010 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Safe Jay Leno"?

Jay Leno IS the safe Jay Leno.

Posted by: Dr. Geek on April 21, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The uninformed will not understand Stewart's jokes. So they won't tune in. The informed will know that FoxNews is not correct much of the time and will tune out. This is why Stewart viewers are more informed than Fox viewers.

Posted by: bakho on April 21, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

First Scarborough's hissy-fit over Jon Stewart, and now Goldberg has a tantrum.

What a bunch of whiny little bitches.

Posted by: 2Manchu on April 21, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, if by "liberal narrative" you mean the actual empirical realities of the world we live in - which tend to be like kryptonite for folks artfully creating fictitious narratives to feed their schisms and bastardized ideologies. Unfortunate, I know, but reality does not care what your opinion is. Let's pose an example. The engine in your vehicle is running poorly as it has burnt an exhaust valve. Unfortunately - there’s that word again - your ideology does not allow you to believe that simply a lean mixture has caused your burned valve. Your opinion, deeply ingrained and earnestly heartfelt, states that the government must have introduced chemicals to damage your mode of transportation to limit your “freedom,” because of course that’s what government does. Your opinion is so deeply entrenched, so self-affirmed from the number of fellow travelers that share it, so intrinsically right! That it must be unassailable, it must. However, and here’s the catch, the laws of physics, metallurgy, let’s include logic here too, and especially your poor mechanic, don’t give a rat’s ass as to your opinion. You see how that works? Your opinion is in fact an impediment to getting your poor vehicle going again, but do rest assured you will be great fodder in the mechanics’ breakroom later once you’ve left, trust me on that one.

One can gauge the collective intelligence of a likely target audience from the level of proliferation of “get-rich-quick,” “invest in gold,” and similar snake oil advertisements that a station programs … say what you want, but they - and their advertisers - know their demos!

Posted by: jsacto on April 21, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

"What I do is jujitsu. They say something ridiculous and then I subject them to scorn and ridicule." - Al Franken

Posted by: John Henry on April 21, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

The brilliance of Jon Stewart is that he's bright, well-read, funny as hell when he's self-deprecating and when he's aiming at a weak-kneed target like Fox and Goldberg.

Goldberg started off like a stand-up guy, IMO. The slimy, pointless arm waving at Stewart just made him look far worse, and that was before Stewart danced across his liver. With a gospel choir.

Stewart must think these idiots are a Godsend. as least for his business . Glenn Beck, now Goldberg.

Posted by: SMS on April 21, 2010 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing more pathetic than a "serious" commentator getting into a fight with a comedian, is when said commentator gets his butt handed back to him on a platter by said comedian.

Now Goldberg's definitively demonstrated that he can't even compete with a clown. He can't out-think a joker. He's got less class than a fool. He is to be mocked.


Posted by: Jon on April 21, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

How ironic that, in attempting to refute the argument that viewers of Fox News are ignorant, you provide evidence supporting its validity. If you had bothered to look at the report, you would have seen the the study involved questions like "Can you tell me the name of the president of Russia?" and "Can you tell me who Robert Gates is?"

Posted by: KevinC on April 21, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

oi, moderators! what's with unrelated spam coming in through here? howobamagotelected.com is one of john ziegler's tissue of lies.

Posted by: Rathskeller on April 21, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

The supposition that Al is a moron because of external forces beyond his control is part of a "liberal narrative." But that he's a moron is just a fact and not a "narrative." It's a tricky distinction that clearly escapes him, and so he's trapped wandering lost and aimless in the standard conservative narrative that unfavorable facts are merely a liberal narrative.

Posted by: Jon on April 21, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see how "courageous" Goldberg is when Stewart inevitably invites him onto the show.

Posted by: June on April 21, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

> Can you tell me the name of the president of Russia?

That would be Dmitri Medvedev. Vladimir Putin is the Prime Minister.

Posted by: Jared on April 21, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

"And how would liberal groups like Annenburg and Pew determine how "informed" viewers are?"

This shows how uninformed Fox fans are. From Walter Annenberg's Wikipedia page:

"It was Annenberg who introduced President Reagan to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the Reagans often celebrated New Year's Eve with the Annenbergs."

That guy was a definite lefty socialist!

Posted by: Jeff Ewing on April 21, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

That first comment from "Al" says it all, doesn't it? To right wing Fox News worshippers "facts" are no different from "opinions." They just don't seem to understand the difference.

Posted by: Marvin on April 21, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK


Sure, Bernie Goldberg is paid to say stupid things. Alex Ovechkin is paid to play hockey, too.

Posted by: DH Walker on April 21, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Not when the survey was done.

Posted by: KevinC on April 21, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Al: here's the study.


Such liberal questions like:
"Who is the President of Russia"

Posted by: MobiusKlein on April 21, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

When criticized, Fox often uses personal attacks and intimidation against the politicians and other news organizations that criticize them. And it usually works. The media has undoubtedly moved to the right since the advent of Faux News. They picked the wrong guy here -- but they don't care. Their audience will agree that Stewart is whatever they say he is, and other more timid less funny personalities will watch their step.

Posted by: patrick on April 21, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Brilliant. Stewart actually is courageous. He was ridiculing Fox News when Gitmo seemed to be held over the heads of every thinking person. Fox News, impotent of facts, can merely mouth the genitalia of the GOP; it has been some time since it fucked itself and a longer time since any thinking person gave a fuck about what they thought was over the line. Cripes--hypocrisy just doesn't come any thicker.

Posted by: Sparko on April 21, 2010 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Funny how Driveby Al never sticks around for the followup after he drops his one-liners, eh, KevinC?

Posted by: Kevin Carson on April 22, 2010 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Interestingly, according to the actual data, O'Reilly viewers apparently didn't do that bad. 4th on the arbitrary-seeming 15/23 questions correct threshold, and did well on the other categories reported as well.

Also, in terms of general knowledge, Republicans did just as well as Democrats or Independents (1% lower in the high bracket, but 6% more had medium rather than low knowledge). I think that you just pretend your liberal bias extends to reality. I suggest you take the advice so often given to Fox viewers and check the damn facts before taken a Colbert quote to heart.

Posted by: Okin on April 22, 2010 at 6:17 AM | PERMALINK

If you look farther down the list, you'll find Fox News Channel (in the broad sense), and that it's second lowest on the list. I believe that this is what was being referenced, not O'reilly's audience specifically.

For as much as I dislike O'reilly, I'm willing to admit that he's pretty smart (when his in-character persona allows him to be, that is), so I could see where most of his audience might have a couple brain cells to rub together.

Posted by: Astin on April 22, 2010 at 6:18 AM | PERMALINK

It is funny, O'Reilly was the fucking devil for the longest time to liberals. He was as bad as it could get. Then Hannity took over that role. Then Glen Beck and Sarah Palin happened. Now, O'Reilly seems sensible and intelligent, just on the wrong side of the fence. Maybe O'Reilly has toned down a bit, or perhaps a new level of insanity has been established and everything else just looks tame in comparison.

Posted by: Jess on April 22, 2010 at 6:19 AM | PERMALINK

"Jay Leno IS the safe Jay Leno."

Goldberg's line reminded me of STAR TREK MOVIE. Brilliantly calculated, basically stupid.

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